Student representatives from the College of William and Mary’s branch of Voices for Planned Parenthood joined more than 250 other pro-choice activists from around the state at the Rally for Women’s Health in Richmond Saturday to protest new regulations designed to limit access in Virginia to abortion providers.
“[Reproductive care] is really an issue for the younger generation. There is a tendency to sit back and let the older generation take care of it, but when you think about how many incidents of sexual assault, unplanned pregnancies and STIs are occuring at the college level it’s really a shame that we are so lax in our defense of those services,” VOX President Greg Callagehan ’14 said.
The Virginia House of Delegates recently voted to amend a health bill, SB 924, to include an amendment classifying facilities that perform five or more first trimester abortions per month as hospitals. The bill was passed by the Senate in February and approved for signing in March. If the bill passes fiscal analysis and is signed by the governor, the law will go into effect by Jan. 1, 2012.
The regulations, considered some of the most strict in the nation, limit access to abortions as well as cancer screenings, birth control and other preventive care provided at women’s reproductive health centers.
Doctors’ offices that provide medical abortions in the beginning stages of pregnancy could be affected as well. If passed, many of the state’s abortion clinics could be shut down.
“We see this as a war against Virginia women, and we hope to send the message [that] we don’t accept politicians and anti-choice extremists bargaining with women’s lives,” Director of Patricia M. Reynolds Women’s Rights Project Katherine Greenier said.
Medical professionals and patients of Virginia women’s health centers that would be affected by these regulations, present and former Virginia lawmakers and representatives from the faith community, youth organizations and health advocacy groups spoke out against the new regulations at the rally.
“The fact is that the people who support the agenda are a small group with an ideological agenda who are not a part of the medical community,” Greenier said. “We think that there’s been a very loud and pervasive drum beat that has been drowning out women’s rights in the state.”
Pro-life supporter Jane Ryngaert ’13 disagreed with that assessment.
“I don’t think this bill is about abortion as much as it is about having all health facilities operate at a certain standard,” she said. “Pro-life or pro-choice, I think we can agree that it is a very serious surgery and the safety of women is at stake, and if anything, increasing the regulations is trying to make it safer for women period.“